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Amy Nelson, left, and Kim Peltola, right, of The Riveter accept Newcomer of the Year at the 2017 GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo)

Seattle’s seen a lot of newcomers over the last few years.

And now it’s time to celebrate a few of our new neighbors. It’s time to select the Newcomer of the Year in the GeekWire Awards.

Our list of finalists this year include a Chinese tech giant that opened a major engineering outpost; an artificial intelligence startup that moved its headquarters to Seattle; a “data warehouse” company led by a former Microsoft exec that raised $400 million; a global partnership aiming to upend the lengthy timeline to get medicines to market; and a tech networking group supporting female entrepreneurs.

Cast your ballot in the poll below and continue reading for more information about the five finalists: Baidu, ClusterOne AI, Snowflake, Seattle Partnership for Research on Innovative Therapies and F Bomb Breakfast Club. Thanks to Walker Sands Communications for sponsoring this year’s award.

We are in the process of unveiling finalists in 13 GeekWire Awards categories. You can also visit the event site to vote in other categories we’ve already announced, including Young Entrepreneur of the Year; Next Tech Titan; Hire of the Year and more. Winners will be revealed at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Business — on May 10th at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. GeekWire readers nominated companies, people and organizations for the GeekWire Awards, with finalists selected by a panel of judges from those community nominations.

The GeekWire Awards sell out every year, so go here to purchase tickets for this one-of-a-kind tech celebration.


Baidu President speaks at the GeekWire Summit Welcome Party at the Living Computers: Museum + Labs (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

Baidu opened an office in the Seattle area last year, making it the latest tech giant to establish an engineering outpost in the region. Baidu is making a big push into artificial intelligence and plans to invest deeper in the public cloud and those moves led the company to establish a beachhead in Bellevue, Wash. The first signs of Baidu’s interest in the Seattle area came when it acquired Seattle-based artificial intelligence startup Kitt’s founders were among the first Seattle area employees for Baidu, and the company could eventually grow to as many as “a couple hundred” people in the region.

Baidu made its boldest move yet into artificial intelligence last year, unveiling a new line of AI-powered hardware called “Raven” — including a distinctive smart speaker with colorful layers and a detachable display controller; and a personal robot that sits on the table and uses its six human-like joints to move flexibly as it reacts to users and expresses emotions.

ClusterOne AI

Mohsen Hejrati
Mohsen Hejrati is ClusterOne’s co-founder and CEO. (Photo courtesy of Mohsen Hejrati)

ClusterOne AI is one of the latest companies to cluster in Seattle thanks to the high-level artificial intelligence and machine learning talent. The California AI startup is moving its headquarters to Seattle to benefit from the incubator program at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. The Allen Institute, or AI2 for short, is the company’s lead investor.

ClusterOne is the creator of a scalable software suite, formerly known as TensorPort, that’s designed to take the pain out of AI programming. Mohsen Hejrati, ClusterOne’s co-founder and CEO and a former engineer for Google’s self-driving car spin-off Waymo, started the company because he wanted to apply machine learning ideas to “areas that matter,” such as personalized health care.


Snowflake Computing CEO Bob Muglia. (Snowflake Photo)

Snowflakes are a rare sight in the Pacific Northwest, but one is making a big impact in the region. Snowflake Computing, the Silicon Valley-based data warehouse company led by former Microsoft exec Bob Muglia, opened an office in Bellevue last year.

Just a couple days after the Seattle-area office announcement, the company closed a $100 million funding round that included Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group. That was followed by a massive $263 million round in January.

Snowflake makes a data warehouse designed for the cloud-native era. Data warehouses are more or less the same as regular databases, but they are designed for analytical applications and to emphasize reading data over writing data.

Seattle Partnership for Research on Innovative Therapies

Gary Gilliland
Gary Gilliland, president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Often overlooked in the region’s tech boom are all the institutions and biotech companies doing innovative work to cure some of the world’s deadliest diseases. This newcomer isn’t a new company or an out-of-towner setting up a big office. It’s a global alliance between top research institutions and pharmaceutical companies with a goal of speeding up the process of developing new treatments for patients.

Known as the Seattle Partnership for Research on Innovative Therapies, or SPRInT, the alliance between between Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the University of Washington and Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd. aims to take promising ideas in the lab and accelerate them toward clinical applications. The focus will be on diseases with widespread need for novel treatments or cures, such as cancer, gastrointestinal diseases, and neurological disorders.

The three organizations will select projects over the three-year period of the agreement, and the alliance can be renewed for another three years after that. It can take more than a decade for a new medicine to evolve from a finding in a research lab, to get through clinical trials and ultimately receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. By collaborating closely, the alliance hopes to reduce this timeline.

F Bomb Breakfast Club

(GeekWire Photo / Clare McGrane)

This isn’t your typical pre-work network meeting. The F Bomb Breakfast Club is a bombastic group of female entrepreneurs founded by business lawyer and founder of Diana | SportsTV Megan McNally at the beginning of 2017 who meet once a month to discuss entrepreneurial challenges — as well as dropping the occasional f-bomb and talking about life outside the office.

The first meeting in January 2017 drew about 20 women, but the club has grown exponentially: On its one-year anniversary this past January, it counted more than 1,600 members. The initial goal of the group was a place for female entrepreneurs “to cuss and cavort and support each other,” McNally told GeekWire in a previous interview.

Some of those challenges are very distinct — fundraising for a new company, for example. Only a tiny fraction of venture capital funding goes to women-led startups. But there are challenges on the personal side as well, including managing expectations and difficult work environments, finding mentors, balancing family life and even dealing with anxiety or depression.

Those are the five finalists for Newcomer of the Year. Vote in the poll above.

Make sure to get your tickets for the GeekWire Awards here:

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